Under Chávez: Media Harassed with Online Hacking, Phone Tapping and Censorship

by Gregorio Salazar    /  January 23, 2012  / 1 Comment

“If not for the media, I would have 80% popularity.” – Hugo Chávez

Venezuelan cartoonist Roberto Weil

Venezuelan cartoonist Roberto Weil portrays President Hugo Chávez as a boot in response to a law which prohibits depictions of the likeness of the president and of patriotic symbols.

On Friday, December 2nd while Caracas was decked out to host thirty two heads of state for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States‘ (CELAC) inaugural summit, several media outlets, universities, and organizations with critical views of the Venezuelan government claimed to have had their email and social media accounts hacked.

The fact that Caracas has been the headquarters for the creation of a new democratic forum that could improve dialogue and consensus in Latin America can give the impression that life in Venezuela operates within the boundaries of a democratic country where, despite any ups and downs of conflict, human rights retain a special place.

  1. President Hugo Chávez Frías
  2. Hugo Chavez
  3. Nov. 1992: Attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andrés Peréz
  4. Feb. 1999: Takes office after winning 1998 election
  5. July 2000: Re-elected under new constitution for a six-year term
  6. Apr. 2002: Abortive coup. Chavez returns to power after two days.
  7. Aug. 2004: Wins recall referendum on whether he should serve out rest of his term
  8. Dec. 2006: Wins another six-year term with 63% of the vote
  9. Dec. 2007: Loses constitutional referendum which included proposal to allow the president to run indefinitely for office
  10. Feb. 2009: Wins referendum that lifts term limits on elected officials
  11. Sep. 2010: Chavez party wins majority in National Assembly elections but opposition gets some 40% of seats
  1. Hacked: Prominent Figures
  2. Laureano Marquez, Venezuelan comedian
  3. - Comedian Laureano Márquez
  4. - Rector of Central University of Venezuela Cecilia García Arocha
  5. - Poet, writer, and television producer Leonardo Padrón
  6. - Political activist and student representative David Smolansky
  7. - Director of the School of Economics of UCV José Guerra
  8. - Host of the popular show Radar de los Barrios Jesús Torrealba
  9. - Leftist politician Douglas Bravo
  10. - Journalist Milagros Socorro
  11. - Journalist Sebastiana Barráez
  12. - Social fighter Luis Trincado
  13. - Director of polling company Luis Vicente León

However, that was not the impression that presented itself the day the hacking victims stepped forward. The list of victims included people that play important political and institutional roles, artists, journalists, and well-known citizens like the famed comedian Laureano Márquez. They declared themselves victims of the “computer terrorism policy enforced by the government of Hugo Chávez Frías.”

Besides Márquez, those “hacked” were the rector of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), Cecilia García Arocha; the poet, writer, and television producer Leonardo Padrón; the political activist and student representative David Smolansky; the director of the School of Economics of UCV, José Guerra; the host of the popular show Radar de los Barrios, Jesús Torrealba; and the ex-guerilla fighter and leftist politician Douglas Bravo, who reported that the Venezuelan government “not only disrespected freedom of expression, but sought to intimidate us and a move us away from public debate.” The full list is much more extensive and includes journalists like Milagros Socorro and Sebastiana Barráez; social fighters like Luis Trincado; directors of polling companies like Luis Vicente León; and others.

Some of them, after concerted effort, recovered control of their accounts. Others remained powerless as their names and accounts were used to attack and insult dissidents, political leaders, and anyone that identified with the opposition.

To form an accurate assessment of the reality of Venezuela—whether the arena be political, social, or economic—is a truly complex and laborious task. With certainty, there is no other country in Latin America where such a high contrast exists between the two poles that divide Venezuelan society. We can choose any subject at random and the perceptions will always be mutually exclusive: On one side is the vision that the independent media shows; on the other is the enormous propaganda apparatus, installed by Chávez with a multi-million dollar investment.

For example: Is the state oil company PDVSA in a situation of debt and operational debacle or has it become a revolutionary model of administration and efficiency? Has poverty been reduced to minimal levels like the official propaganda insists, or are the rates stagnant despite the fact that the government has used Venezuela’s revenue from international oil sales for proselytism purposes? Do Venezuelans enjoy the highest level of freedom of expression in their history, like the Revolutionary government claims, or is it a reduced, beaten right, under permanent siege since Hugo Chávez installed himself in power in 1999? The latter is a debate that remains, despite the fact that during Chávez’s term there have been more than a thousand documented assaults against freedom of expression. The list of assaults includes a range of all possible affectations against the media and journalists, from verbal abuse to the closure of television and radio stations.

The crucial theme of freedom of expression is constantly at the center of the debate, which involves, of course, competing sectors, but also Latin American social movements, national and international NGOs, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations Commission on Human Rights, who frequently issue reports on conditions in the country. Despite forceful evidence about the situation of freedom of expression in Venezuela, there is no way to conciliate positions between the parties involved.

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About the Author

Gregorio Salazar is a Venezuelan journalist, contributor for the Sunday Edition of the newspaper Tal Cual. Follow him on Twitter: @goyosalazar

View all articles by Gregorio Salazar

One Comment on "Under Chávez: Media Harassed with Online Hacking, Phone Tapping and Censorship"

  1. Vladimiro Rinaldi (the poet ) March 7, 2012 at 11:28 am ·

    POEM AS A COMMENT

    (to Te Kupu and all the unknown and well known poets
    for a proposal of behaviour poetry)

    What is
    this very noisy silence
    and heart palpitation
    shiness-and-violence
    man under man,
    man on man
    and environment;
    what does it really mean ?

    all over the world ?

    What is
    this planet
    if not a biodiversity
    common country
    of all the creatures
    included human being
    Yes a commpom country
    to respect
    in the social and environmen
    for a future of peace
    and real justice
    with nobody injured
    or dead
    to be called foreigner?

    Who do we think we are
    only because
    we have hands
    and things to be made
    in China
    or elsewhere
    and economic crisis
    but not for the rich people
    who become richer
    even more
    and no reputable Vip
    in mass media ?

    What does all this man
    in democracy really
    to be called honest
    and not a bluff ?

    What is it
    living
    in a wonderful planet
    all this pollution
    and violence
    to be forced considering
    normal things
    or evidet uthopia ?

    When no respect
    is given
    and peace is denied
    and blood make poppies
    to run over the rocks
    of a desert or plop for a bang
    of stupid arrogant servilism
    as a golden bullet
    in the midle of front
    of the needy
    and no filter in photography
    of correct reportage ?

    What does it mean,
    what is it
    this absurd absence
    of dignity and freedom
    in poetry

    and no economic compensation?

    Publishers as dictators
    and mass medias servilism
    at global level
    why we have to hush
    all this about and not to shout
    our absence of honest real poetry
    fighting will
    against lies of publishers
    and evident invisible chains?

    Fellow poets
    at global level,
    chin up !
    Come on,
    this is time
    of behaviour poetry

    I do not hush
    I denounce
    I risk no publication
    or injuries and prison
    for myelf as an author
    and my hard working
    and dreams of children
    tpo make them true

    We want peace
    we want love
    we want reaòl friendship
    among the people
    and real social justice
    for everybody
    and respecting nature
    environment
    at global level
    poets of world unite
    make yourself and working
    behaviour poetry .
    Do not serve tiranny,
    having dignity
    in order to make better
    this overwhealming power
    of man on man
    and man on nature
    and environment
    in iots whole
    Let’s have dicnity
    Nobody pay us to be servants
    of poetry

    What all this mean and is ?

    No more complicity
    by silence and shiness
    Poetry is Poetry
    poets must have a dignity
    and not to be servants of anybody
    We have a task,we are poets,

    To escape from a prison
    of silence in poetry
    and servilism very loud noise
    and free poetry
    wonderful innocent butterfly
    or coloured bird
    or white dove
    unjustly and cruelly put in a cage
    by the establishment.
    of the invisible chains
    of worldwide status quo-

    P-S- The author apologise with the readers
    for possible spelling mistakes
    he is not Englishmother language
    and has been operated for cataracts.

    Poem by Vladimiro Rinaldi
    born Italy,Rome,on the 16th March 1942,
    in the working class area
    of i Tiburtino Terzo-

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